raw @ the tempe library

Christy Brown organizes the Tempe Community Galleries exhibitions. She explains that in conjunction with the Tempe Center for the Arts Gallery’s Smithsonian “Green Revolution” exhibition (which opened last January), all the community gallery shows will have “going green” themes this year.

Raw opens today. The exhibition focuses on the work of three artists  who are choosing to move away from the use of harsh chemicals and synthetic materials in their work, and are instead working with raw, recycled or organic materials. I am one of those artists, as are Joe Willie Smith and Aimee León.

Aimee León
An artist and certified sheep shearer, uses natural raw wool along with recycled industrial materials. The show includes a number of her small and soft – object forms . Most are beautiful tactile vessels. I want to touch them all.


Joe Willie Smith
A multi-media artist and musician includes works in metal.  He works with found objects and repurposed material. He talks in general about finding just the right piece and then in particular about the white form below – how he scratched/drew on it one early morning to catch both the light and shadow of the sunrise.


I have several posts about Joe Willie’s work and our collaborative effort at sound making – which I’ve used as background for all the Nothing In Stasis videos.

Raw includes a number of my paintings and one small drawing. I work with organic material, primarily egg tempera and casein.  I like to refer to my mediums as egg and milk. This work below uses casein as underpainting, and egg tempera as the surface color.


Vital Commotion #4

Delivery and Install
I plan to drop off work and head back to the studio to paint, but when I learn Joe Willie is in the exhibit and he’ll be dropping work off, I wait for him. And as it all plays out we spend the morning working with installer, James Sulac.  Before Christy leaves for the morning she mentions how the work might hang. She asks which side of the wall I want my work on and I tell her. But after Joe Willie arrives and we begin seeing how interestingly things connect, we suggest the work hang in the space mixing together. Below are a few install shots.



I understand we connect in terms of the raw materials theme, but as I look at everything I appreciate Christy’s eye more and more. The organic forms of León’s soft sculpture connects to the light forms and color in my paintings and to [the appearance] of softness in 2 of Willie’s larger pieces.

And you probably can’t tell from these photos (below) but the colors and lines in Joe’s work connect to my use of the same design elements. The acid green of his sculpture (below) runs right through the mid-section of my painting to the left, and is high-lighted by reddish pink points in both works. Joe Willie decides grouping his smaller pieces salon style will enhance the grouping of shapes in my compositions, and vice versa.



I regret not getting shots of another wall where León’s wall pieces hang along side Joe’s and my work, a similar soft glow of lavender and blue shows up. Somehow all the work organizes between fragility and strength.

It’s Raw and you’ll just have to go see for yourself.

vital commotion #6

WHERE: Tempe Public Library
(Lower Level Youth Library)
WHEN: Now to Dec 4th

The Tempe Public Library is located at
3500 S Rural Rd
Tempe, AZ 85282.

As you arrive watch for the Museum marker below, on the corner of Southern and Rural.

For more info on show and for artists’ statements click on  → Raw

you rock!

Joe Willie Smith and I first exhibited our work together in 1995, at the Arizona Artists Here and Now exhibit, in the Nelson Fine Arts Center.  Since then our artwork has crossed paths on numerous occasions. I’ve always appreciated his creativity.  We finally met while members of eye lounge.

This summer I was asked to participate in a fundraiser at the Mesa Arts Center. Artists were asked to paint hub caps.  I was not all that excited to do this. I don’t creatively connect to cars, nor car parts…I resisted. Eventually while having a dinner gathering and setting my table, I got an idea for how I might approach the hub cap.  No strong content, just pure and appropriate design. I just have to say, I didn’t like painting on metal either. I grumbled throughout the process. But I was satisfied with end result (below), and eventually with the entire experience.


Talavera Hub Cap, Monica Aissa Martinez

I dropped into the Mesa Arts Center the day after the opening.  The exhibit titled Wheels and Ink ran in conjunction with two larger exhibits.  I walked into the gallery and saw all the hub caps, including my own, sprinkled across a back wall.

But my attention was drawn to a side panel where a multi-media work hung.  Sound drew me in that direction. I approached and I noticed a hub cap. A hub cap turned into  an instrument!  The work was positioned in front of video, of someone playing the stringed hub cap. The sound was visceral, it was an experience all on its own. As I looked on, I noticed the person in the video. It was Joe Willie Smith! I watched mesmerized. Hub cap turned into string instrument…video of artist playing the contraption…and the sound…the sound…internal and raw.  I got a rush of adrenalin in the way that I get when I look at exciting art work.  It was intelligent and creative.  Joe Willie you rock!


It set the tone for how I experienced the rest of the exhibit.  I carefully observed how each artist re-presented the circular metal form.
It also set the tone for how I came to my studio the next few days. This is what art should do…I kept thinking…form and content.

  • Capture attention in a unique way.
  • Incite thought.
  • Bring one into the moment.
  •  Inspire a new way of seeing…a new way of doing…a new way of being.

This will set the tone for how I approach this sort of invitational, in the future. Take me out of my comfort zone, I’ll not grumble next time.


Joe Willie, is not only a visual artist but he’s also a musician. He really does rock.  He let my husband try out his drums recently. Eddie gave it a try.

I now (as of a few years ago) have a Joe Willie Smith painting that resides in my dining area.
…never tire of it.

Joe Willie teaches a multi-media course, “Urban Field Studies: The Art of Finding” at Phoenix College.

Wheels and Ink opened on Sept 12, and will run thru Jan 4, 2009.  The work is for sale with 25% of the price of the art going to MAC, 25% going to Free Arts for Abused Children and 50%  to the individual artist.

You can read about all the exhibits at the Mesa Arts Center Blog.